She is lean and wrinkled with blue-brown eyes. Her appearance makes some of the white people think of black workers, maids, cooks; others think of black mistresses or jungle orgies. Still others think that she is a foreshadow of what is to come - black people invading the one place that it still considered the white person's sanctuary, their church. They see her and transfer their fear of blacks onto her. The beginning of the story is told from the white people's perspectives as they see an old black woman come to their church and go inside.
Inside the church, the point of view switches to the usher who tells the old black lady to leave. The point of view then switches back to the white women inside the church, who take it as a personal insult and feel the most threatened about the old black lady being at their church. They rouse their husbands to throw the old lady out. The perspective then changes to the old black lady. This constant changing of point of view is useful in that it portrays the fears, thoughts, and feelings of almost everyone in the story.
Firsthand, the reader is able to know what the people are thinking and why. In the end, the point of view briefly returns to the white people who were at church that day. The story ends with the perspective of some black families who witnessed the old lady walking down the highway. The story starts on a Sunday morning at the steps of the church that white people attend. The focus moves briefly inside the church where it is cold. As the story progresses the setting moves to the highway located outside the church. It is freezing outside.
It is interesting to note that the old black woman does not find Jesus inside the "white" church but outside of it. Also of interest; prior to meeting Jesus, the old black woman is cold and shivering. After meeting Jesus, no mention is made of the woman's being cold or shivering. Walker does not give a specific time period in which the story takes place or a specific location. This might have been done to make the story timeless. The language used in The Welcome Table is very descriptive in her details of the old black woman's appearance and the appearance of Jesus.
Walker is also detailed when describing the white people's different emotions, thoughts, and feelings. Walker provides insight into all the characters with her word choices, and by doing so, makes a simple story more profound. Walker writes this story straight through for the most part with only two breaks. The first break comes immediately after the old woman is thrown out of the church. The point of view then shifts to the old black woman whose thoughts and feelings were unknown to the reader up to this point.
The second break occurs after the old woman is walking with Jesus. Walker uses the break to shift forward in time in the white people's perspective. Although the old woman dies at the end of the story and an argument could be made that she was walking alone, this story contains hope and leaves the reader with a good feeling. The story gives hope that people who have lived a life of servitude and poor treatment will, in the end, find kindness, acceptance, and joy.